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Aug 13, 2010
Illegal immigrants escape
KUPANG (Indonesia) - A GROUP of illegal migrants escaped from an Indonesian detention centre on Friday and was believed to be heading for Australia, where boatpeople are a hot issue ahead of elections next week, an official said.
Local immigration office head I Gusti Ngurah Rai said the 21 from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran were among 44 people who ran away from the detention centre in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara province.
Officials managed to arrest 23 of the migrants in Kupang town.
'The 21 people may have left to Australia using different boats,' he told AFP.
'Some witnesses said that seven migrants had rented a boat and left this morning to Australia,' he added.
Indonesia has been a key staging point for people smugglers taking migrants on the perilous sea journey south to Australia. -- AFP
Ali Cobra accused over deaths of 14 illegal immigrants
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Paige Taylor
From:The Australian http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/cobra-accused-over-death-voyage/story-e6frg6nf-1225710578623
May 08, 2009 12:00AM
THE biggest single flood of asylum seekers to Christmas Island in seven years was under way last night as Indonesia confirmed that Ali Cobra, the country's alleged people-smuggling mastermind, would be questioned over the recent deaths of 14 illegal immigrants.
But Indonesian police acknowledged that Cobra, who was arrested on Monday night in a raid in the eastern port city of Makassar, could serve less than five years' jail if convicted over a failed January operation.
The voyage, which set out from Kupang, in West Timor, on January 12, was allegedly organised by Cobra, a native of Sulawesi. He was caught as he was allegedly arranging to send 10 Afghan boatpeople into Australian waters. The breakthrough arrest was part of a joint operation between Indonesian authorities and the Australian Federal Police, which included mobile phone detection technology provided by the Australians.
According to a Kupang detective, Indonesian authorities had six separate mobile phone numbers for Cobra, accused of being one of the leaders of Indonesia's people-smuggling racket, and had been tracking him since the Kupang voyage using the Australian technology.
Last night on Christmas Island, Australian Customs officers used a barge to bring ashore 189 asylum seekers from HMAS Tobruk before taking them to island detention camps.
Some of the asylum seekers have been aboard navy ships since Anzac Day, while others were plucked to safety and transferred to the Tobruk after being detected on April 29 and May 5. There are already 270 people in detention on the island, including 198 men in the $400 million Immigration Detention Centre.
Kupang police chief Adjutant Chief Commissioner Heri Sulistanto praised the Australian involvement in Cobra's arrest, saying the AFP's role in such investigations "relates to information-gathering, observation, monitoring, then they ask us to make an arrest".
But he revealed it was unlikely any significant penalty could be imposed on Cobra if he were to be found guilty over the January voyage -- the victims of which were Afghan and Pakistani asylum seekers -- "because the deaths were accidental".
Of the 18 who set out on that trip after a violent escape from a Kupang detention centre, only four people were rescued, including a boy, 10. Five bodies were found at sea and the rest were never recovered. The three surviving adults each face up to eight years' jail for their escape from detention -- allegedly orchestrated by Cobra.
Mr Sulistanto said prosecutors would try to charge Cobra under Indonesia's maritime laws with negligence causing death, but doubted that would succeed since he was not in charge of the tiny fishing boat when it hit rough seas off Rote island, southwest of Kupang, and sank.
"The evidence against him has been provided by those whose escapes he facilitated," Mr Sulistanto said. "This included providing a (Mitsubishi) L300 (van) and getting them into it, and taking them to the beach where they boarded the fishing boat, which later sank."
He said it was these survivors who had confirmed that Cobra also operated under the name Labasa Ali -- although it was under the former, more evocative name that he bought the doomed fishing boat "for around 40 million rupiah ($5127)".
"The illegal immigrants themselves told us that he used both of those names, although it was as Ali Cobra he bought the boat," Mr Sulistanto said.
But the police chief said the local fishermen who sold Cobra the craft had warned him not to take it to sea. "They said the conditions were not right, but the group still put out, from Lasiana Beach (in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia's easternmost province)," he said.
If the charge under Indonesia's maritime laws could not be made to stick, he said, the strongest penalty available would be a maximum of five years for negligence causing death under the general criminal code.